Inside the South Sudan National Dialogue Conference held at Freedom Hall in Juba, South Sudan from 3-17 November 2020. Photo: South Sudan National Dialogue Secretariat

17 November 2020, Juba—The first nationally-owned and countrywide opportunity for citizens’ voice and engagement, the South Sudan National Dialogue Conference reached consensus on wide-reaching recommendations designed to redefine and strengthen unity in South Sudan.

“There is no doubt that the outcome of the National Dialogue represents the views of the broad cross-section of our society on the issues raised. The issues you raise deserve full attention of your leadership. The National Dialogue has legitimacy - it was a bottoms -up approach. What has been produced in this process must be harmonized with the permanent constitution-making process, which is provided for in the revitalized peace agreement,” His Excellency President Salva Kiir Mayardit told delegates gathered at the closing ceremony on Tuesday.

His Excellency President Salva Kiir Mayardit speaks at the closing ceremony of the South Sudan National Dialogue on 17 November 2020. Photo: South Sudan National Dialogue Secretariat

The National Dialogue Conference brought together more than 500 delegates from all over South Sudan to collectively analyze the root causes of the conflict and problems facing the country. The recommendations include shared commitments on key issues concerning governance, security, economic recovery and social cohesion.

"I join the National Dialogue to forgive and to be forgiven. In order to find a pathway to sustainable peace, we have to heal historical trauma and injustices," said H.E. Vice President Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior.

The national convening follows grassroots, regional and sectoral consultative phases of the National Dialogue which engaged more than 20,000 (30% women) people in over 200 consultations across 80 counties, including Abyei and Boma. In the spirit of inclusivity, the National Dialogue consulted more than 1,200 diaspora and refugees in Nairobi, Khartoum, Addis Ababa, Kampala, Rhino camp, Umvepi camp, Bidibidi camp and 21 refugee settlements in Adjumani, Moyo and Lamwo districts. Spanning more than three years, these consultations were the basis for peace conferences and dialogues, including regional meetings that addressed tribal and ethnic conflicts.

Delegates attend the closing ceremony of the National Dialogue Conference at Freedom Hall on 17 November 2020. Photo: South Sudan National Dialogue Secretariat

"We thank the Government of South Sudan for honoring its promise of supporting the National Dialogue process, and seeing it through to the end," said Hon. Angelo Beda, Co-Chair of the National Dialogue Steering Committee, during the opening ceremony.

The National Dialogue is an independent but complementary process to South Sudan’s Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS). Its purpose is to build a renewed consensus on contentious issues fueling conflict and insecurity, and to revitalize South Sudanese aspirations for development and membership in the world of nations. Through National Dialogue implementation, the President relinquished his role as patron and the government released political prisoners. Discussions were open to the public to observe and monitor, with some broadcast live.

“When South Sudan gained its independence in 2011, it was one of the greatest achievements in human history. Now, this National Dialogue is another significant event to consolidate national unity and pave the way for a stable and prosperous future for this country,” said Ambassador of Japan to South Sudan H.E. Naohiro Tsutsumi, in a video message congratulating the country’s leadership and conference delegates for the national ownership of the process.

The mechanics of the National Dialogue process drew from experiences such as Yemen, Tunisia and South Africa. "Each country conducts their own dialogue, and South Sudan has conducted a process that suits the people of South Sudan,” said David Shearer, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan.

A UN Taskforce on the National Dialogue, comprised of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and the UN Country Team, worked to support the process’ credibility, transparency and inclusivity. UNDP’s engagement was based on institutional and technical expertise in national dialogue processes globally in conformity with the United Nations National Dialogue Engagement Strategy. 

Focus groups during discussions, organized by issue, to validate recommendations gathered by the local and regional consultations of the National Dialogue process. Photo: South Sudan National Dialogue Secretariat

 

“Since its initiation, the National Dialogue feedback has been emotive, frank but constructive, and the emerging recommendations from the local and regional consultations are wide and deep,” said UNDP Resident Representative Kamil Kamaluddeen, to the National Conference delegates. “UNDP shall continue to journey with you in the implementation of the outcomes of the conference as this is one of the beginning steps in the arduous path of building a peaceful and just South Sudan.”

Among the National Dialogue recommendations:

  • the need for a permanent constitution and the importance of leaders to uphold nationalism over tribalism. In discussions on state structure and power sharing, the National Dialogue recommended a mixed system of federal governance where states have administrative and political autonomy, with some concurrent powers shared (as Stipulated in R-ARCSS Chapter 6).
  • Conference delegates proposed actions to expedite the implementation of security arrangements of the R-ARCSS, including investigating delays to Chapter 2 implementation, protection of human rights, and professionalization of organized forces. The need for a comprehensive disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme was also highlighted.
  • Immediate, medium, and long-term civilian disarmament measures were proposed and resolved, with an emphasis on the importance of continued local-level and inter-generational dialogue to facilitate peaceful co-existence. Concerning communal relations, the delegates resolved that a national healing and reconciliation process should be conducted immediately following the conclusion of the National Dialogue process.
  • Delegates representing youth successfully submitted their request for 20% youth inclusion at all levels of government. This request was passed as a conference recommendation for the national constitution review, along with the recommendations to increase women governmental representation from 25% to 35%, and 5% for persons with disabilities.

The National Dialogue Conference officially concluded on 17 November 2020, following agreement on an implementation mechanism. On several issues, the National Dialogue findings will be recommended for adaptation into the permanent national constitution. Recommendations will also be presented to H.E. President Salva Kiir Mayardit, for onwards implementation within the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity. As part of a follow-up mechanism, the National Dialogue Steering Committee proposed to host annual National Dialogue conferences for the next 5 years to measure the progress of the implementation.

A comprehensive repository of South Sudan National Dialogue documents can be found on their website: https://www.ssnationaldialogue.info/

Video recordings of the National Dialogue National Conference can be found on the South Sudan National Dialogue Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SSNationalDialogue

For more information please contact Kymberly Bays, Communications Officer, UNDP South Sudan: kymberly.bays@undp.org 

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